Super typhoon Ruby: Storm surge alert up

Ghio Ong, Helen Flores - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - As it continues to roar across the Pacific Ocean toward Eastern Visayas, Typhoon Ruby has evolved into a super typhoon – according to US Navy weather specialists – stirring more frenzied preparations in communities still haunted by memories of Yolanda.

Storm surges up to four meters high are likely to hit coastal communities in Northern Samar and Leyte, including the capital Tacloban City, and possibly the Bicol Region and Surigao provinces, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). 

The state weather bureau said strong winds and heavy rains are expected within the next 24 hours as Ruby (international name Hagupit) further intensifies and moves closer to Eastern Visayas.

Ruby was forecast to make landfall over the Eastern Samar-Northern Samar area tomorrow afternoon.

Mahar Lagmay, executive director of the Department of Science and Technology’s Project NOAH or Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards, said the typhoon could trigger storm surges of up to 3.5 to 4 meters high in the next 48 hours.

PAGASA raised storm warning signal No. 2 over Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar, Biliran, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Dinagat Island and Siargao Island as of 5 p.m. yesterday.

PAGASA acting administrator Vicente Malano said winds of 61 to 100 kilometers per hour would be felt in areas under signal No. 2 in around 24 hours.

He said winds of such intensity could uproot trees and blow away old galvanized iron roofs. He said sea travel is risky for all types of vessels in these provinces.

Signal No. 1, meanwhile, was hoisted over Catanduanes, Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate, including Ticao Island, Northern Cebu, including Bantayan Island and Camotes Island and Bohol, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Camiguin Island and Agusan del Norte.

Winds of up to 30 to 60 kph is likely to be experienced in areas under signal No. 1 within 36 hours. A signal No.1 typhoon can yank out roofs of cogon and nipa houses.

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, the center of Ruby was spotted at 720 kilometers east of Surigao City, packing winds of 205 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 240 kph.

It was forecast to move west northwest at 15 kph.

By Sunday afternoon, Ruby is expected to be at 30 km west southwest of Romblon, Romblon.

Not changing course

PAGASA deputy administrator for operations and services Landrico Dalida Jr. said most forecast models showed Ruby was definitely heading towards Eastern Visayas.

“We no longer have a second scenario (the typhoon veering away to Southern Japan), (Ruby) is almost landfalling,” Dalida said in a press conference yesterday.

“It has a very slim chance that it will recurve,” he said.

Malano, however, maintained there was still no indication as of yesterday noon that Ruby could reach or surpass the strength of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Yolanda – the strongest cyclone in 2013 -- generated storm surges up to seven meters high, killing more than 6,000 people, based on official estimates. About 25,000 people still live in tents, shelters and bunkhouses more than a year after Yolanda.

The Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center upgraded Ruby into a “super typhoon” category yesterday morning.

The JTWC indicated Ruby’s winds could peak at 160 knots or 296.32 kph with gustiness of 195 knots or 361.14 kph on Saturday.

Senior weather forecaster Chris Perez said Ruby is expected to trigger heavy to intense rains within the 350-km radius of the typhoon.

While PAGASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency predicted Ruby making a direct hit on the central Philippines, the forecasting website Tropical Storm Risk and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center of the US Navy showed the storm veering north, closer to Manila.

The Japan Meteorological Agency classified Ruby as a “violent” storm while the US Navy called it a super typhoon.

On alert

Local government officials and emergency teams from the Red Cross, army and coastguard were on alert for possible swollen rivers, landslides, flash floods and storm surges, said Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado.

“All radios and televisions are open, cell phones are being charged. People are buying food stuff, preparing fuel and gasoline supply,” Mercado told dzMM radio. “People are now conscious of preparations.”

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) placed on 24-hour red alert its chapters and volunteers in areas likely to be affected by Ruby.

“We enjoin staff and volunteers of Red Cross chapters based in Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to be alert 24 hours a day and continue to monitor their respective areas,” said PRC chairman Richard Gordon.

“We can all help reduce the damage caused by natural hazards like typhoons and floods through a culture of prevention,” he said.

He said residents in affected areas “must prepare to evacuate immediately to prevent injury or death, and to not endanger our rescuers including themselves, like in previous typhoons where this happened.”

“We have to learn from our experience in typhoons Yolanda and Pablo, and other natural disasters, to prevent loss of life,” Gordon said.

“We will monitor, coordinate and report status of evacuees, overflow of dams, landslides, flooding incidents and general conditions to the PRC National Headquarters Operation Center,” he added.

PRC secretary general Gwendolyn Pang said additional emergency supplies are being provided to PRC chapters.

PRC staff and volunteers are also starting to pack relief items such as food, sleeping items and hygiene kits, she said.

Family first

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II emphasized however that first responders should secure their families before going to command centers and going about their duties.

Knowing their loved ones are secured, disaster personnel “do not have to worry for their (families) safety when emergency situations arise in their areas of jurisdiction.

“They need to focus on their job 100 percent especially when they man the command centers,” he added.

“We need to take each typhoon entering the PAR (Philippine Area of Responsibility) seriously. Super Typhoon Ruby is said to be Yolanda-like in track and everyone should prepare for it,” Roxas said.

“Our LGUs are the first responders when disasters and calamities strike. We expect our local officials to take command in cases of emergency,” he pointed out.

Roxas explained that governors and mayors are mandated to man the command centers of local disaster risk reduction management centers.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), for its part, said it has placed its commands in eight regions on full alert in preparation for Ruby’s onslaught.

PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor said on full alert status effective today are regions 4A/B, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11 and 13

“Security and disaster preparedness reminders are included in the directive. Additionally, our National Disaster Operation Center can be activated as early as 6 p.m. yesterday,” Mayor added.

Equipment, vehicles ready

The same level of readiness is being observed in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“The AFP is on red alert to ensure availability of troops and equipment for immediate humanitarian and disaster response operations,” AFP spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said.

“This time, though we see to it first, that our troops deployed in the disaster prone areas are safe,” he said.

Aside from personnel, all air and naval assets – rescue helicopters, cargo planes of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) as well as supply and logistic ships of the Philippine Navy (PN) – are also placed on standby and ready for deployment.

AFP Civil Relations Service Group-7 commander, Maj. Emmanuel Garcia, said troops, specifically those based in Eastern Visayas, are coordinating with local government units as well as with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and other government agencies in preparation for possible relief and rescue operations.

In Bacolod City, officials declared a “yellow alert” in Negros Occidental.

Eric Villaluna, officer-in-charge of the Provincial Disaster Management Office, said Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. decided to issue a yellow alert citing the typhoon’s potential to heavily affect even his province.

Classes suspended

Various LGUs, meanwhile, have declared suspension of classes.

Classes in all levels were suspended yesterday and today in Biliran Province, Tacloban City, Leyte, Ormoc City, Southern Leyte, Northern Samar, Cebu, Cebu City, and Catbalogan in Samar. Sheila Crisostomo, Rainier Allan Ronda, Lalaine Jimenea, Danny Dangcalan, Ed Amoroso, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jaime Laude, Janvic Mateo, AP










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